Two Mecklenburg County, N.C., judges say they believe the public has a right to learn more about the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department's secret surveillance of cellphones, despite the city's position that details about the operation must not be revealed, the Charlotte Observer reports. Judges Richard Boner and Robert Bell said they are willing to consider unsealing some orders that authorized police to use portable equipment that intercepts cellphone information from criminal suspects and innocent people alike. “I can't think of a justification once everything is over and done with” to keep the records shielded, Boner said.
The comments are significant because national privacy groups have tried unsuccessfully for years to learn how police use the device commonly known as a StingRay. It can provide officers with serial numbers, location and other information about nearby phones, laptop computers and tablets that connect to cellular networks. Police say the equipment is used to target and quickly apprehend specific individuals suspected of serious felonies. City Manager Ron Carlee said there are procedures in place to protect constitutional rights. On Friday, the Observer and news partner WBTV asked the Superior Court to unseal Mecklenburg County records dating to 2006.